I Never Knew A Doctor Could Treat Me So Badly Until I Got Pregnant

So, was I just supposed to resign to everything that was happening to me? In my view, just because something is common and part of pregnancy, cannot make it normal.

Trigger Warning: This deals with gaslighting and breach of consent by healthcare professionals and may be triggering for survivors.

The news of my pregnancy brought me and my family immense joy, just how it should. The thought that we would grow from a family of two to three just in nine months, was something we had hoped and prayed for.

As a couple residing in a different city from their hometown, we conducted a fair bit of research on which doctor and hospital we would like to visit. We chose a very well-known maternity hospital in Gurgaon and a very experienced doctor for this momentous journey.

Right from the start I felt that I was just another number for my doctor

Each of my consultation lasted exactly for 2 minutes and I was highly discouraged to bring anyone except just one family member along with me for my appointments. I wanted to talk about how I felt through my first trimester and how as a reasonably healthy person, having a strong aversion to any kind of spices, constant need to sleep, migraine like headaches were something which really bothered me and affected my ability to work and just carry on with my day. In my second trimester, my back aches got really bad but apparently that is part of the package too, so, my doctor would just snub off any such conversation and say- ‘this is normal.’

So, was I just supposed to resign to everything that was happening to me? In my view, just because something is common and part of pregnancy, cannot make it normal. It should be addressed, if not at a medical level, then at a psychological level.

She shamed me for my questions

Time went by and I started asking questions related to exercise, weight-gain and nutrition which could help me in managing my pregnancy well and eventually trying to have a vaginal delivery. However, the standard answer to any of these questions was – ‘only the baby decides how she/he will come into this world- vaginally or through surgery.’

How can doctors casually discuss C-sections as an option for low-risk pregnancies, and why aren’t they proactively discussing the possibility of vaginal deliveries as a way to mitigate the risks and discomforts of surgery? These are questions we need to consistently ask the medical community.

She took actions without my consent

My first cervical examination happened when I was 36 weeks pregnant.

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For the uninitiated, a cervical examination requires a doctor to put their fingers into the cervix to find out if it has dilated. Many doctors won’t even tell you that your consent is required for this check and you have the full right to say no because doing this check at this stage, has no correlation to when your labour pains will actually start.

My doctor didn’t care to seek my consent and said it is a necessary procedure. Before I could even discuss my options, she took her two fingers and pushed them inside. I shouted with shock and pain – a natural human reaction to what happened to me. On seeing my reaction, my doctor gave me an extremely disappointed and demeaning look and said if you can’t handle this pain, how will you handle labour pain, how will you deliver from your cervix.

I felt so dejected and violated after that consultation. It was like I had lost my bodily autonomy just because I was pregnant, and the birth of my child was dependent on professionals who thought so low of me.

None of my options were discussed with me, and it felt as if I had none

Immediately following the procedure, my doctor told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital by my 39th week of pregnancy if labor didn’t commence naturally for a medical induction. Within hours of being induced, they would determine if I would undergo a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section.

Despite my extensive knowledge gained from Lamaze and childbirth classes, which emphasized that medical interventions should only be used in cases of maternal or foetal risk, I was disheartened by the prospect of unnecessary intervention. As an informed individual, I sought answers from the hospital authorities about their C-section rates, only to be met with silence. I was appalled to discover that there was no support for exercise during labor, no provision for birthing partners, and no allowance for familiar faces in the labor room. The reality of the situation hit me hard as I realized the lack of options and support for a natural childbirth experience.

So I decided to look for options on my own

In that moment, a sense of utter helplessness surrounded me. I realized that everything around me seemed to be pushing me towards a C-section, and as I imagined myself laying on that hospital bed, perhaps at my most vulnerable, I knew I wouldn’t be able to utter a single word of dissent to my doctor, who had repeatedly gaslighted and intimidated me. My instincts as a woman and a mother screamed at me that I couldn’t face that doctor again. No matter how senior or experienced she was, I couldn’t let her make decisions about my childbirth experience that went against my wishes and intuition.

My husband and I spent the next two days talking to friends and family about our situation and as luck would have it we found another hospital. My new doctor encouraged me to focus on a vaginal birth and told me that their staff will try to be my strength during labour. As per our plan, everything proceeded smoothly, and after enduring 8 hours of labor, our precious baby was born. Throughout the labor process, I received moral and medical support, including pain relief measures. My husband was my birthing partner and my mother was outside the labour room all the time, allowed to visit me frequently.

While it was a happy ending for me, my heart and thoughts are with all those women who don’t have the resources to be educated about a healthy birthing process, who don’t know about consent, and who would never have the support or the courage to change their doctor if they felt any kind of injustice.

Editor’s note: Women regularly face #MedicalMisogyny from health care professionals. For the WHO World Health Day 2023 theme of ‘Health for All’, identifying this misogyny and ensuring #Equity in healthcare is essential. All of April, we will be sharing stories with you on this these, either personal stories or fiction. Find them all here.

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Surbhi Bajaj

Outspoken, authentic, logical and empathetic. Here in pursuit of relentless feminism. read more...

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